PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia man who has spent more than a decade in prison for a murder he may not have committed, has been released on house arrest, six weeks after a judge vacated his conviction.
Dontia Patterson, 29, and his supporters with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, made a pit stop after leaving prison.
“First thing I did when I got out, I went to McDonald’s,” he said. “I needed some non-prison food, man. I had to.”
Now, his ankle is strapped with an electronic monitoring device, and Patterson is staying with a relative in North Philadelphia. Friends and family greeted him, and he is able to hug his 11-year-old daughter for the first time, outside prison walls.
“I got time to make up with my daughter, and my family,” he explained. “I got stuff that I wanted to do that I never got a chance to do.”
Patterson says he wants to get situated, get a job, and take care of his family.
Back when he was 17, Patterson’s defense team says when he heard his friend had just been shot at a nearby grocery store in Lawncrest, he ran down the street to see what happened. Two eyewitnesses, who may have been more than a block away, picked Patterson out in a police lineup. The defense maintains it was only because Patterson was at the crime scene. He was ultimately convicted, in a second trial in 2009, after the first ended in a hung jury.
His defense team has maintained through the years that the grocery store owner, who knew Patterson from the neighborhood, would testify that the shooter was not him, but he was never called to testify.
Even though, technically, Patterson could be retried on first degree murder charges, the district attorney’s office did not oppose bail. The chief of the DA’s Homicide Unit, Anthony Voci, said it’s plausible that Patterson was innocent, and they have “serious concerns about the integrity of the trial conviction.”
Patterson says it seems the powers that be are coming around.
“I feel as though they did the right thing to give me bail,” he said. “I shouldn’t be sitting in jail, for something that I didn’t do.”
In the coming weeks, the DA’s office will make a decision on whether to drop the charges, if it ultimately agrees with the defense, that it was a wrongful prosecution from the get-go.